As discussed in a previous entry, I believe strongly in Experiencing the world, culture, location and people that your writing focuses on. In the case of Fantasy genre authors who are creating their own worlds, sometimes this may not be possible. But if your creation is at all inspired by a real life Experience that you can visit, touch, taste, hear, or otherwise sense, your creation will be that much more real to your reader. Realism (even, or perhaps especially in Fantasy) makes the reading more pleasurable because the reader can relate with your world and can willingly suspend their natural sense of disbelief in order to allow themselves to be transported.
A great tool for this is something that Google has made available to us all FOR FREE.
It’s Google Maps. Specifically, the Earth (or Satellite) view.
With this tool, I can describe to my readers down to the detail of a count of the stones in a garden wall. Without ever going to Rousay (although I dearly desire to at some point) I can tell you about the rocks Hugh washes ashore on, and about the sheep in the quartered pastures that will stare at him. I can tell you about the ruined, crumbling house that is the Seeming for Hulda’s house’s disguise. I can tell you about the stone wall that separates her garden from the road and from the magic of the hill further west, and about the post-and-wire fencing that designates the pasture of the next property. I can tell you about the shade trees (on an Atlantic Island?! GASP!) and the purple heather at the corner of the walk. I can tell you about the crunch of the grass. And not because I’ve been there, but because I’ve seen it.
Cheers, Google. Here’s a link to the pictures of everything that Civil Dusk’s Chapter Eight is set in. Click it. And travel with me.